The Best Gay Bars in Red States

Across the US, these are the coolest, sexiest, and friskiest gay bars in conservative states.

If you thought gay bars and clubs were confined to bright-blue metropolises like San Francisco and New York, you might be surprised by just how queer states like Idaho and Oklahoma can be. Paving the way for social progress, especially in stubbornly conservative states, is no easy feat. But cornerstone bars like these are boldly taking a stand, hanging their rainbow flags, and beckoning change. From Boise to Des Moines, these are the best and brightest gay bars in America’s red states.

The Balcony Club in Boise, Idaho

When most people think of Idaho, they likely think of potatoes. Perhaps an après ski vibe. Drag queens and neon-lit dance floors probably aren’t top of mind, but they should be. Two blocks from the state capital building in downtown Boise, The Balcony Club rises like a big gay phoenix, beckoning passersby with enough rainbow flags to make the United Nations headquarters look sparse by comparison. Located on the second floor, with an apt balcony overlooking the quaint hustle and bustle down below, the city’s premier late-night destination (open ’til 2 am every night of the week) draws a queer crowd for karaoke, bingo night, weekend DJs, and of course, twerking on the massive dance floor until the wee hours. Not only is this highly underrated city one of the most walkable in the country, it’s evidently also one of the most danceable.

Cheer Up Charlies in Austin, Texas

Based on the poll results from our most recent Presidential election, Texas may not be a red state much longer (and its capital city is decidedly blue). But either way, we can all dance our feelings away at Cheer Up Charlies, a bastion of unabashed queerness just east of the downtown nightlife fray. While billed as a gay bar, it’s largely an androgynous space where all are welcome (except homophobes, of course) and judgement has no home. The come-one-and-all crowds flock to the neon-lit yard to dance in the open air, while the indoor bar and dance floor offers its own magic with a disco ball and various DJ sets. In delightfully weird Austin fashion, Cheer Up Charlies exceeds gay bar expectations with kombucha on tap and healthy-ish cocktails made with fresh-squeezed organic juice blends.

Savoy in Orlando, Florida

Sporting a similar layout to Cheer Up Charlies, Savoy is an expansive indoor-outdoor gay nightclub in Orlando’s Ivanhoe Village neighborhood, where folks from all demographics and age groups congregate for boisterous drag shows, billiard games, and dancing al fresco. While Florida continues to taunt its erratic politics, it’s nice to know that queer meccas like this place are an apt distraction. The multi-roomed bar features various specials and events throughout the week, like Musical Martini Mondays, poker night on Wednesdays, and Long Island Sundays, which sounds like a great way to guarantee you start your work week hungover. The bar also boasts one of the gayest vending machines we’ve ever seen — one where you can simultaneously stock up on Cheez-Its, male enhancement pills, lube, and Peanut M&M’s.

The Pumping Station in Memphis, Tennessee

Not all gay clubs necessitate crop tops, laser lights, and vodka Red Bulls until last call. Sometimes all you want is a relaxed space that’s safe and comforting, with the added possibility of a little flirtation. The Pumping Station in Memphis’ Crosstown neighborhood is such a space. More laid-back and chill then your typical nightclub, this pint-sized enclave, formerly home to a Jewish liquor store before opening in 2001, is more a neighborhood watering hole that just so happens to be queer AF. Outfitted with a comfy back patio that looks more like a residential courtyard filled with tastefully arranged planters, the bar is a reliable place where the community can gather for a game of pool, a round of beers, and an order of jalapeño poppers. While it’s not a nightclub, per say, The Pumping Station does like to get a little saucy sometimes, as evidenced by recurring late-night events like underwear parties and Kink Night.

Club Majestic in Tulsa, Oklahoma

One foot inside Club Majestic and you might think you slipped into a vortex transporting you from Oklahoma to the Castro. But in Tulsa’s increasingly lively, colorful, and metropolitan Arts District, this vast two-story nightclub is an oasis of neon lights and late-night dancing, where the bars are numerous, theme parties are riotous (don’t be surprised to see Buddy the Elf get down on the dance floor come Christmastime), and the drag shows are equal parts sexy and hilarious. Most heartwarming is the staunch, inclusive messaging the club communicates on its website: “Just because of images you may see on our website or people you may come across inside of the nightclub, in no way should anyone make an assumption about anyone's sexual orientation…this nightclub was designed and created for those who want to be who they are without judgement of any kind.” It’s certainly fun to have a gay old time in a pulsating nightclub, but verbiage like this from a city in one of the nation’s most infamously red states really matters.

George’s Place in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

New Orleans is great and all, but the antics can be exhausting. If the Big Easy took a chill pill, it’d probably look a lot more like George’s Place. This welcoming haven of homosexuality in Louisiana’s capital is conveniently sandwiched between downtown and Louisiana State University. This has been the case for decades, ever since George Hogan opened his namesake bar in 1970 sans signage or fanfare in order to create a safe place for gay patrons and closeted individuals. While much has changed over the years, including the addition of signage and a performing stage, the essence of safety, fun, and community remains. Nowadays, the “South’s Friendliest Gay Bar” backs up this self-appointed claim with its enduringly inclusive atmosphere, diverse crowd, music video dance nights, dirt-cheap drink prices, and billiard games in a space that looks more like a no-frills house with a huge patio.

The Max in Omaha, Nebraska

Clocking in at a whopping 12,000 square feet, The Max is the Mall of America of gay nightclubs, and it just so happens to be located in a state as bright-red as a candy apple. Taking up basically a whole block in Omaha’s Old Market neighborhood, this place really goes all out with a stage and performance area called the Arena, the Disco room illuminated with lasers and LED lights, an upstairs lounge with billiards, and a massive outdoor patio. It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure of queer nightlife, with each area offering different opportunities for frivolity and fun. In addition to requisite karaoke nights and drag shows, the club’s event schedule is always stacked with fun theme parties like “Think Pink” and “Villains Return,” wherein resident queens come clad in scantily clad villainous attire.

Angles in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

For further proof that the reddest states are rapidly turning rainbow, we present to you Angles. This massive warehouse-sized club is the nightlife anchor of Oklahoma City’s 39th Street Entertainment District (aka the gayborhood), and for good reason. Aside from the sheer scope of this place — which includes a colossal main dance floor under a disco ball the size of the EPCOT sphere, three bars, and an upstairs lounge overlooking the action through voyeuristic floor-to-ceiling windows — it’s the spirited (and hilariously interactive) drag shows and theme nights that make this the ultimate queer mecca in America’s heartland. Come weekends, you never know what random theme might be decorating the walls or which characters might hit the club. A recent night, for example, featured superhero decor splashed throughout the interior, which explains why someone in a full-blown Catwoman suit was twirling like Michelle Pfeiffer on the dance floor.

The Blazing Saddle in Des Moines, Iowa

Just down the street from the Iowa state capital in Des Moines’ vibrant East Village, The Blazing Saddle is blazing its own path. This is the kind of longstanding (open since 1983), affirming establishment where all are welcome and supported, and where intolerance is not tolerated. Since reopening amidst the pandemic, the bar boldly displays signage enforcing its safety protocols with stern words like “Being belligerent or resistant to policies that are intended to protect employees and guests does not make you a patriot … It just shows your complete lack of consideration for anyone other than yourself.” This commitment to community is echoed by Charity Beer Busts on Sundays, when the bar sends funds from beer purchases to local non-profits. It makes sense, then, why this place is known locally as the “Gay Cheers” and why Iowans flock here time and again for trivia nights, Latin dance nights, drag shows, and daily happy hours that are actually six hours long.

Missie B’s in Kansas City, Missouri

Mere blocks from the Kansas border, this beacon of LGBTQIA+ nightlife does double duty when it comes to welcoming patrons and partiers from two notoriously red states. After starting out as a piano and karaoke bar in 1994, Missie B’s has evolved and grown into a massive block-sized space with three bars, a patio, and dancing until 3 am every day of the year. Despite its impressive real estate, the bar manages to feel intimate and cozy, divided into distinct spaces that each exhibit a unique atmosphere, from the more relaxed cocktail bar to the thumping dance floor, neon lights aglow. There’s even a leather shop by the upstairs bar, which is convenient. The motto here is “Good Times and Good Friends,” an ethos exemplified not just through its welcoming environment, but through various charitable actions, like donating $53,000 to families of Pulse Nightclub victims and hosting free potluck dinners for those in need during the holidays.

Stonewall in Huntington, West Virginia

Located on the western side of West Virginia, smooshed near the Kentucky and Ohio borders, the small city of Huntington is probably the last place you’d expect to find a good gay bar. Which makes it all the more heartening that in a city of less than 50,000, in a state mostly stereotyped by dusty coal mines, there’s an out-and-proud bar putting the spotlight (literally) on drag queens, and inviting everyone to dance along — until 3 am, no less. This is still a small city so the space is pretty minimal and straightforward, but Stonewall works with what it’s got (or rather, werks), as exemplified by the stunning acrobatics and physical theatrics of the queens-in-residence, strutting, spinning, and splitting across the central stage and catwalk.

Tini in Indianapolis, Indiana

While you’re out exploring Indianapolis’ gayborhood, the Mass Ave. Arts District, your essential stop for nightlife should be Tini. This is another bar that’s less overtly gay, and more queer and cool, where anyone from the LGBTQIA+ community (and its allies) can feel right at home over a cocktail. You needn’t settle for pump-action whiskey-sodas here at Tini. This is one chic and sultry queer bar with an impressive mixology program and seasonal drinks like rum-infused (and vegan) pumpkin spiced lattes with cold-brew coffee, pumpkin, and coconut cream; and the twee elderflower-splashed Tini Collins with cucumber vodka, lemon, and sugar. Pair 'em with unexpectedly delightful bar snacks like kimchi waffle fries and “KFC Steam Bunz,” which squish crispy chicken thighs and pear slaw on fluffy bao buns, and you’ll be well-prepped for a night of dancing. For something more chill, the bar hosts movie nights on Mondays with themes like Nicolas Cage and Kate Winslet, so you can sip a Mai Tai while wondering why she didn’t make room for Leo on that door.


Even though Arizona and Georgia went blue this past election, we’d be remiss not to shoutout two of our very favorite gay bars in the country, which just so happen to be in two formerly longstanding red states. Though Savannah and Tucson no longer reside in red states, these cities — and these keystone bars — prove the power of change that can occur when queer folks gather, let their voices be heard, and let their rainbow flags fly. It’s bars like these, and those from Omaha to Baton Rouge, that will continue to pave the way for progress while having a little fun along the way.

IBT’s in Tucson, Arizona

IBT’s, the gay bar and club on Tucson’s bustling Fourth Avenue, is so cool and fun that you might find yourself going back multiple nights in a row on one trip. The space is so nondescript from the outside that it kinda looks like nothing at all, but inside you’ll find a long central bar manned by friendly bartenders who won’t scoff at you for being the only person on-property ordering chardonnay. Out back is a huge patio, mercifully equipped with fans and a bonus bar that opens on weekends for outdoor dance parties. Trivia night and drag shows are fun and joyous as well, and after a few consecutive nights here, recognizing familiar faces and feeling a sense of home away from home, it’s quickly evident why IBT’s (which stands for “It’s Bout Time,” by the way) is such a staple for Tucson.

Club One in Savannah, Georgia

The same sentiment applies to Club One in Savannah. Despite its generic name, this three-story behemoth of a downtown bar is so fun and exhilarating that after I spent my birthday dancing here this year, I went back for round two the next night — and stayed out way past my bedtime. Each level has its own vibe and flavor, from the more relaxed billiard-clad basement where karaoke takes place, to the main dance floor on the ground level, and the spirited drag shows upstairs where you’re basically guaranteed to weep tears of joy to “This Is Me” at some point.

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Matt Kirouac is a travel writer with a passion for national parks, Disney, and food. He's the co-founder and co-host of Hello Ranger, a national parks community blog, podcast, and app. Follow him on IG @matt_kirouac.